I write for a living. I just moved back to the Midwest from Brooklyn. Unwritten literary bylaws mandate I must tell others about it. Normally, this would come in the form of a meandering exegesis, convincing you (or really me) this was about more than wanting to pay half as much in rent for a better quality of life. But, the world could use one less dispatch from the inner monologue of a comfortable 30-year-old.
While I’m leaving some great friends, wonderful museums and access to excellent food behind, here are some things I will not miss about the Big Apple.
The Assholes… You don’t arrive in New York an asshole. But, with the constant crowds in close proximity, your inner survival asshole kicks in. You become obsessed with your needs, your time and your personal space. Mere existence becomes competition. You find yourself jostling sidewalk dawdlers, getting apoplectic in drug store lines and berating customer service reps. Stay there too long and you are the person stepping out of your Lexus to spew profane venom at a poor mailman whose truck broke down. Because that’s what truly important: how everything effects you.
The Umbrella Assholes… This is a specific variant of New York asshole. It rains on occasion. That rain is often accompanied by wind. New Yorkers have a strong tendency to pull their umbrellas low, angle them into the wind and charge forward blindly, come what may. Then mumble an apology after they shove you into a puddle.
The Rodents… They are everywhere. Rats scurry across the sidewalk, pop out from garbage bags and invade cute city parks after sundown. They die, bloat and intrigue your dog as you are fiddling with your iPhone. Mice live behind the dishwasher, get into your food at night and somehow get on your stove for the better part of a calendar year while evading every trap, bait and poison known to man. “Exposed Brick” is code for “prepare to kill mice.” Some day, I hope I stop unconsciously flinching every time a squirrel enters my peripheral vision.
The Subway… New York’s Subway does one thing efficiently: funnel outer borough plebs into lower Manhattan where money is being made. Going to the airport? A sadistic odyssey or a $35 to $50 cab ride. Moving between Brooklyn destinations? LOL, even when the G train isn’t doing that weird shuttle thing. Is it above 80 degrees? Pack an extra shirt. The platform is about 15 degrees warmer. Rush hour? Enjoy the crush, the BO and the person eating a bagel with a half pound of cream cheese right in your face. Are you female? Keep your head down, try to ignore the rampant eye-fucking and hope that’s the worst of it. Don’t even get me started about tourists with backpacks.
The Materialism… You don’t quite have enough money to support the lifestyle you want in New York. You become inordinately concerned with how others do. Salary, rent and probable trust funds are polite, common topics of conversation. Everything becomes a marker of status whether that’s a bag, a car, a gym membership or a prodigious brood of children you can somehow afford to house and to educate in the City.
The Hot Garbage Smell… One of New York’s unique charms. It’s 85-plus and humid. There’s an industrial amount of garbage, mostly food, that has been sitting out for at least a couple days. Catch the wrong gust of wind and you get heat mixed with burning, tears and the nausea-inducing scent of rancid fish.
The Waiting “On Line”… Everyone else waits “in line.” New Yorkers wait “on line,” as though they are surfing the Internet or standing upon a physical line. The line is the row of people waiting. You are “in” that group.
Overrated Food… New York is a wonderful food town. Living within walking distance of Pok Pok was a pleasure. That said, the pizza is overrated. It’s either (a) a manicured artisinal art project or (b) a reheated tasteless slice of cardboard topped with grease. Either way, it costs 50-75 percent too much to have delivered to your residence. Folks have been coming to your deli since the 19th Century? Great. Our bread and meat taste better in the Midwest and we can pay with a credit card.
The Absent Romance… ”My life is like Sex and The City,” she says, while sipping a vodka soda and swiping left on Tinder as she waits for her girlfriends in a generic wine bar.
The Fashion Norms… You have messy hair, a flannel shirt, a beard, thick rimmed glasses and dark skinny jeans? Hey, me too. Awesome American Apparel hoodie. I too own that in four different shades. Yes, your four-year-old totally needs knee-length leather boots. Don’t you dare wear shorts when it is 95 out. What sort of gauche jerk wears practical boots when the 12 inches of snow melts into a pervasive slush?
The Constant Stimulation… It’s normal to sleep with an eye mask and ear plugs, right? And to not achieve REM sleep for six years?
The Thinness… Well-to-do New Yorkers are into many things. Most have something to do with keeping off weight. That could be cigarettes or drugs. That could be a blatant eating disorder. That could be taking a $34 spin class, multiple times per day and multiple times per week. That could be Cross-Fit, the ultimate metaphor for New York. Toiling hard for no purpose but to show off how hard you toiled. Moving up the wealth table, that could be a peculiar brand of asceticism. Many Upper East Side Matrons look as though they’ve spent the past eight months living in a cave, fending off wild animals for carrion.
That Great Idea You Had… Was had by at least 20,000 other people. Get there early. Be prepared to throw elbows.
The Jets Fans… Self-explanatory.
Times Square… Everything about it.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal… The absolute worst place on earth.
The BQE… Or, more specifically, the backup on the Long Island Expressway which you know is coming from a completely bumper to bumper BQE which you know you need to take to get home.
The Pretentious Bartenders… You pour liquid into a glass, for a profession. Sweet vest and tie combo though …
The Undue Sense of Accomplishment… You made it. You moved out of your hometown. Guess what? That means jack shit. You really are just working a menial job with a college degree and paying rent you can’t afford for a crappy apartment. Your friends and family aren’t amazed you’ve done that. They are amazed you keep putting up with it into your 30s. And, no, you have not accrued enough wisdom in your few years of New York residency to take to the Internet and tell people living elsewhere what’s what.